How a recruiter looks at your resume

Dan Diamond, Executive Editor

Ever wonder how a recruiter from Google would look at your résumé?

Ambra Benjamin recently explained what she wants to see—and she has advice on how to make your résumé better, too. 

Benjamin, who's been a recruiter at companies like Google, Facebook, and Expedia, wrote a post on Quora about what recruiters look for in a résumé, and her comments quickly went viral. (I spotted them on Quartz this week.) Overall, I thought her tips were incredibly insightful, and they matched up with some of the reporting we've done at the Daily Briefing

One key caveat: Benjamin's focused on hiring engineers, so her advice may be tailored a bit more for folks who work in that field. (Although Benjamin stresses that she's also recruited for finance, sales, and strategy positions; "everything I’m about to say broadly applies to all of these fields," Benjamin writes.)

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Benjamin says she's got her résumé-review process down to less than 30 seconds. Here are three of the many questions she's looking to answer. 

  • Does she recognize your organization? Benjamin says she's a "company snob," and for good reason: She can make quick connections if she knows the companies on your résumé. "Because recruiters have generally been doing this job for awhile, we notice patterns and trends among candidates from certain companies," Benjamin writes, "and we formulate assumptions as a result."
  • Do your job titles make sense? Benjamin says she's looking for increasing levels of responsibility—basically, does your resume tell the story of a successful career, building over time. But she's also trying to determine the truth behind a lofty job title, like if you were named a vice president...but at a five-person company. 
  • Did you clearly lay out your path? From Benjamin's perspective, if you've taken a gap to raise children or leave the traditional workforce, you need to answer it. "Get creatively honest and just name that period of your life in a way that shows you acknowledge that it might raise an eyebrow," she advises.

Benjamin also warns that she tends to skip over a few areas: Educational background, fancy formatting, and—importantly—cover letters. (That last point maps with what Peter Keating, the Advisory Board's executive director of career management, told the Daily Briefing this year: "Bluntly, the résumé is the anchor...the cover letter is just more of an inducement to go deeper." See the full Q&A with Peter.) 

Trying to improve your chances when applying for a job? Benjamin shared some good tips, like don't exaggerate your titles, don't make your résumé too long, and definitely don't hand-deliver it. One key recommendation: Add some personality.

"We recruiters are staring at these missives all day long," Benjamin laments. "Throw a joke in there somewhere for goodness’ sake," like a creatively written description of your work experience.

"Very few of us are curing cancer," she adds. "We should lighten up a bit."

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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